Think pink

by Central Magazine

Have you spotted them in Portugal?

Article Cover Photo

I always thought flamingos were spindly-legged exotic birds that lived in saline heaven on salt flats and ate shrimps, which caused their pink colour – which is correct to a certain extent.  Flamingos are typically found in shallow saltwater or brackish waters, where saltwater and freshwater mix. But some breeds do raise their young in alkaline or ‘soda’ lakes, where other creatures would find life impossible.


The origin of their colour

Thanks to its acidic algae, mineral-rich water and the diversity of its aquatic creatures, saline is an ideal habitat for flamingos. They are born white-grey and as they age, they gradually acquire their pink colour due to their diet. The salty places they choose to live in offer them a very specific diet: algae, larvae and small crustaceans that are very rich in carotenoids, pigments that, once digested by the flamingos, will be deposited on their skin and their feathers, turning them pink. Once the bird swallows this pigment, it will be transmitted and then retransmitted throughout the food chain.

Credits: envato elements;

Their habitats are either incredibly salty or incredibly alkaline in pH, and they have special tough skin and scales on their legs to prevent burns. They can even drink water at near boiling point at Lake Bogoria in Kenya’s Rift Valley, which is famed for its hot spring geysers that regularly throw jets of scorching hot water to the surface.

If no freshwater is available, flamingos have glands in their nostrils that enable them to remove salt, draining it out from their nasal cavity.

Credits: envato elements;

Where to see flamingos in Portugal

The flamingos we see here are migrating from France to Spain and stop in the wetlands of Portugal and can be seen in the Ria Formosa Natural Park throughout the year.

Another place to spot them is at Lagoa dos Salgados. This beautiful coastal wetland is located near Albufeira and is a popular spot for birdwatching. The lagoon is surrounded by dunes and salt marshes, making it a perfect habitat for flamingos. Stroll along the lagoon’s boardwalk and catch a glimpse of these birds feeding in the shallow waters, together with many other bird species, including herons, storks and spoonbills.

Credits: envato elements;

You can also see them in Sapal de Castro Marim and Vila Real de Santo António Natural Reserve, located on the border between Portugal and Spain. This salt marsh is an ideal habitat for flamingos.  This reserve covers more than 2,000 hectares, and is made up of salt marshes and also agricultural fields, which constitute ideal habitats for these stunning birds.

Another hidden gem for flamingo spotters is The Ludo and Quinta do Lago Nature Reserve, located between Faro and Almancil and is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and visitors can observe a wide variety of bird species, including flamingos.

And finally, a fun fact – they look like they have backward bending knobbly knees, but these are actually their ankles!  Their real knees are hidden further up in their feathers.

Subscribe to our newsletter